A postgraduate choice to suit your lifestyle

Helena Pozniak discusses the routes to studying for a postgraduate degree

Whether you’re studying full- or part-time for a postgraduate
qualification, you will see the wrong side of midnight at some point. “I found
my husband at his desk this morning in his dressing gown and thought ‘good, at
least he’s gone to bed at some point’,” says the wife of a doctor in the throes
of finishing a postgraduate degree alongside his fulltime job. “But he'd just
put it over his clothes to keep warm while he studied all night.”

However you study, a successful postgraduate course requires an iron will. Either way, your time is no longer your own. Which mode to choose usually boils down to money. Around 54 per cent of postgraduates in the UK opt for full-time study. They tend to be young, possibly from abroad, and many go straight from their first degrees into their second. Older students often go part-time because they can’t afford to quit their job or have other commitments.

Whatever the choice, postgraduates can expect longer hours than the usual working week. With funding scarce, most full-time students work as well as study to make ends meet.

Part-timers find themselves attempting Herculean juggling feats: a few hours’ study before work, during a lunch break or after the kids are in bed.

Thinking space is one of the luxuries that comes with full-time study.

“It’s not just about taking classes,” says Cambridge-based Fulbright scholar Prajwal Ciryam, who is pursuing a doctorate. “It’s about time outside of the classroom. My best ideas come after a chance discussion in the course of a day that is usually devoted to thinking through my work.”

“Full-time: nice if you can afford it”, is an attitude shared by many postgraduates.

Fees vary from around £4,000 a year to £12,000 and beyond, meaning students must find more money over a shorter period. There are no official loan structures in place, but some bursaries and funding options are available via www.prospects.ac.uk, the government’s careers website.

It’s only worth borrowing the cash for a full-time course if you will reap measurable rewards, says Dr Heather McGregor, author of Mrs Moneypenny’s Careers Advice For Ambitious Women. “You can end up exhausted. If you know, for instance, an MBA will boost your earnings, better to borrow, put everything into it and get a distinction,” she says.

Time is a commodity as much as money. Prospective postgraduates should work out, down to the last hour, where they will extract study time from their week. “If you want to do well, quantify how much time you need,” says Dr Caroline Gatrell, a social scientist at Lancaster University Management School and author of Managing Part-time Study. She calculates it takes 25 hours of study a week to earn a distinction at business school, whereas 12 hours is only enough to get by. Weekends, evenings and early mornings are all fair game, but it will inevitably squeeze out time for family and enjoying yourself.

Staying on track as a part-time postgraduate is one of the greatest challenges, Gatrell says, so choose your mode of study carefully. Fixed timetables and contact with your peers and tutors will help you stick with it. While modular online courses are the most flexible way to study, they don’t have the “gun to your head” effect of a firm deadline. However, when your studies relate directly to your current work, one naturally enriches the other. Real experience is valued in many vocational postgraduate courses, although it may raise expectations of what you will achieve.

University staff regularly advise students that you stand more chance of staying the course if you love your subject and you know where you want to be. Emma-Jane Luscombe, a single mother who is facing another five or six years of study on a part-time PhD in international business at Glyndwr University, agrees. Living with her parents, who share the care of her two-year-old son, she was already a mature student when she completed her first degree and she moved seamlessly into postgraduate study. “The university gives me a lot of support to make the timeline manageable.

My initial thoughts were to finish my degree and get on, but with a PhD I can secure a good job, and ultimately have better opportunities for family life.”

News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Extras
indybest
PROMOTED VIDEO
Travel
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
travel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Sport
football
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Trainee Digital Forensic Analyst

£17000 - £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Trainee Digital Fo...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Technical Support Analyst

£23000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are cuu...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home